Jenna Gribbon’s (b. 1978, Knoxville, Tennessee) oil paintings constitute an important new entry in the long lineage of figurative art, extending its narrative possibilities to explore the act of looking. Her vivid portraits, frequently nudes or partial nudes, depict those closest to her, and sometimes the artist herself, in candid poses, during uncanny moments. Replete with saturated colors—and spot lit in awkward, uncomfortable, or humorous positions—the protagonists are often seen looking directly at the artist, blurring the line between observer and the observed. By including her own image in her paintings, whether it’s her legs brushed up against her partner’s or her dramatic shadow lurking in the foreground, Gribbon becomes both actor and director in an unfolding storyline that is equal parts comedic, tender, fantastical, and dark. She uses scale to decipher between true-to-life and constructed scenes. In her larger paintings, Gribbon employs strategically placed props—mirrors, blindfolds, clamp lights, colored gels, green screens—to explore different types of mediation that affect image consumption and investigate the power dynamics between subject, artist, and viewer. Her recent work most prominently features her partner, Mackenzie Scott, whose recurrence both personalizes and simultaneously establishes her as a kind of avatar; shifting the focus of the painting away from the figure and toward the way the figure is framed. Gribbon’s paintings often begin as a photo taken on her phone, forging a fluid relationship between photography and painting, the real and the surreal, and between the ephemerality of phone photography and the enduring quality of oil paint. By painting otherwise fleeting scenes, the artist adds texture, depth, and a sense of permanency to these temporal images, highlighting themes of pleasure, joy, and expanding the lexicon of queer iconography.
Jenna Gribbon was the subject of a solo exhibition at Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy (2022–2023). Recent group exhibitions include Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters, The Frick Collection, New York (2022); and I will wear you in my heart of heart, FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2021); and Paint, also known as Blood: Women, Affect and Desire in Contemporary Painting, Warsaw Museum of Modern Art, Poland (2019). Her work is in the permanent collections of institutions including Kunstmuseum The Hague, the Netherlands; Brant Foundation, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, Las Vegas, Nevada; New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; Kurpfälzisches Museum, Heidelberg, Germany; Rubell Museum, Miami; and FLAG Art Foundation, New York. Gribbon lives and works in New York.